Lindsay Cuff and Yana Kehrlein
DescriptionLindsay Cuff is interviewed by her husband Yana Kehrlein about her inspirations as a writer/musician, her writing process, the influence of her grandfather, his death and her family.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Lindsay Cuff
- Yana Kehrlein
Recording LocationLower Manhattan Cultural Council
- anecdotes (humorous but true stories)
- family characters
- family expressions
- Family Traditions
- family trips and excursions
- Lower Manhattan
- memories of former times
- memories of growing up
- personal experiences
- Salvation Army
- song composing
- writing process
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00:00 Don't think too much though. I can hear my name is going to Caroline. Say 2 years old and today's the 18th of May 2010. We already know, New York, New York New York relationship lenses husband.
00:22 My name is Lindsay cuff. I am turning 30 in 3 weeks.
00:30 It's what did you say? It was May 18th, and we are in lower Manhattan New York, and I am Jonas wife.
00:44 Well, I'm going to start like this world question, but specific to the to the work. How do you come up with the ideas that come from my ideas like for what to do during the day or my ideas from?
01:04 Yeah for you work like every time you are you come up with that? I don't know what song goes book when I do. You're like a dialogue or anything?
01:17 I think
01:19 I don't know. It's just I think I have a very curious and voracious mind. So I'm always observing and watching and reading and listening and I also as you know how but
01:35 A good memory. So I have this little cash of things that I store and somehow they get processed and come out the other end. So yeah, I would say like a little sort of everyday details. That's where I get my ideas.
01:51 You know, you're you're
01:55 The ideas he said he come from the clothes from places. Do you know how they come up? Do you know usually like preview how they come out since you're like a writer songwriter. I think the idea like the man's what it will become.
02:15 So give an example.
02:20 For example, the songs that I write actually tend to be about probably the simplest things more like truly emotional content. It's very rare that I feel soft cooler intellectual idea that I have will become a song. It's funny. Yeah. It's like definitely a more assertive.
02:42 It's why I let myself be more poppy me. My song is love and longing for sure that
02:59 Yeah, like for example, when I wrote the opera libretto bad idea was first kind of I saw an article in the newspaper that was about a woman who woke up during surgery, but couldn't tell anybody that she woke up and I thought that this was really interesting this idea. And so then I just kind of start I don't know what that's going to end up into but I'm curious about it. So I start to think about it and then I started to think
03:31 About the body and how it plays tricks on us and then I started to like research tricks and that led to hoaxes which let me who to Houdini. So I started thinking about how magic is related to anesthesia and surgery and so then
03:52 Then I also stumbled upon this man who teleported in the 16th century. So then I was like, oh what am I going to do with all these things? How am I going to unite them? So then I tried to write a short story that was in three voices, but it didn't it didn't really work for me. Like it needed. It needed something else. It needed something more experimental felt like I wanted them to all sing in a choir, but they couldn't do that in the story. So then I decided to try and make them sing and wrote an opera libretto. So I think it's like it's all part of the process that what comes out in the end.
04:35 Yeah, you know when you go and leave home and go to your studio. What is that possible?
04:46 I like researching thinking and just trying like like I said, I tried to read short story first of that piece and it didn't read the short story. It could have gone farther. So
05:03 Yeah, so what like what do I actually physically do is I sit through a cup of coffee the keys and the Raiders like right, but that's it is something else that they do I guess, you know, I mean the process starts like on my bike around the subway. I just like ruminate over things for long periods of time and like it's usually in in motion that I'm thinking about it and like going over things and putting things together. And so then when I sit down at my computer, I'll start with like a very small
05:49 Sort of seeds to start getting my thoughts into a written form to yeah, I'll start writing on just any topic and then see what emerges or I mean for the novel that I just started. I just started like covering my walls and Post-its with ideas and threads and characters and
06:13 Yeah, but it's funny cuz I'm actually I'm not sure that that novel will end up being a novel like I'm approaching it right now is if it's going to be a novel but it's a novel that's based on sound. So I'm actually creating sound archives that are going to be threaded into the narrative. So the protagonist is discovering the sound archives of his grandfather so I can I started writing it just in a normal way trying to like make my prose highly based on sounds but then I sort of stepped back from it and started creating a actual tapes and then writing these small moments of prose around the tapes themselves and I
07:09 I'm so enjoying that process of just he's like moments in time that I don't know. It can almost be a player a performance piece out loud needs to be heard. I mean at first I thought my biggest challenge in the most interesting challenge is going to be to convert the sound into Pros, but now I I don't know. I'm not sure it's hard to say too much about it because it might very well be a novel but I think I'm open to it also being other things that do involve story and sound and maybe it'll be a listening experience like a cereal that someone gets that you buy like one thing at a time. That's what happened to Lindsay. CA Open studio. Last time you had to read this part of your love you book.
08:09 Bring something new to to this thinking this new direction. Is it definitely
08:19 In talking to people after and it seems like they really responded to the sound and especially I Incorporated corporated one of the tapes in the end people really responded to that to the sound of the voice. Like I mean, hold on by his expression the grain of The Voice.
08:45 I think there's something so interesting until evocative about about the voice itself to human voice. And that's so much of what my work is concerned in X concerned with is is the voice and what it holds and when it can carry in the intersections between the speaking voice the singing voice and the written voice.
09:10 So ya can the voice be presents in the world in words or what happens when you actually make the voice present itself reliving what you
09:25 The expense that you had with the the Oprah the first time when you wrote true story and then you need voice into those people into the live-action. Then you end up making an Oprah. I feel like you have the same needs like the new world this novel and needs to be said out loud. I mean, maybe it will be coming up soon to be enough.
09:57 Set a timer for
10:07 But yeah, I mean text is equally as important to me as as found. So yeah, I think that's very much part of my work cuz it's hurting.
10:19 Screwing around in those intersections and kind of seeing what comes
10:28 I've seen like at the chance of something. I must have lots of your work and seen you like singing folks out for festivals senior being experimental music singing classical writing Running Aces. You better you better and all these different kind of medium.
10:58 Is there anything that that's red swollen of those that you can seem that you can like extract from all of those different medium that use awesome to someplace that you express yourself is something that still remain besides you.
11:16 Like sort of themes that kind of rent can run through all of it goes back and Tina.
11:33 I think
11:35 Like something that keeps coming back and I'm not exactly sure why I'm in this probably lots of reasons why but
11:44 It has something to do with grief and loss and memory.
11:51 And I mean you mention like singing in a folk band. That was the song that I was kind of type of songs. I was most interested in his murder ballads.
12:03 Which is like which I find so fascinating this is history of murder ballads because
12:12 It's like something people are singing about something that is dark and not spoken about and gritty but real and that happens and thinking about it Embraces that loss and that sort of Dark Side of human nature.
12:30 The experimental music. I mean, I guess you can call it that I play the more minimalist of instrumental music definitely has this word of thread of of melancholy which I believe it's like deeply related to loss.
12:47 The latest short story that I read that is about.
12:52 Someone losing their husband, but not being able to admit that they lost it and therefore it's obsessed with Kevin Costner.
13:05 Yes, so I guess I am interested in that in about how that can be inherited by people and how that can be passed on and how we
13:15 How we speak to each other in that is how we hold it and bear witness to it and
13:24 There any clue? Why don't you cry that come from?
13:35 Yeah, I mean, I like anyone have experience lost like in my life for sure at a young age. I was in the room with my best friend when her mother died and went through that whole experience of grieving and loss with her at a pretty young age. And actually I started to write poetry about it at the time.
14:04 But everybody around me everybody that I come in contact with like you my close friends. I don't even know. I mean we all we have all experienced. This is some more than others, but it's kind of a matter of when you know that but we will expand so so many other things this one you can like something that you want to work on.
14:28 I guess it's I mean is something so strip down and something.
14:34 At the very start of basic
14:37 Thing of Human Experience, I think and I think it's something that is really hard to share in words, you know, we we can share our happiness with people we can talk about it. You know when you catch up with your friend on the phone after not talking to them for a while but but loneliness and grief is something that we we make such a bigger deal out of it. We kind of
15:03 We hold it to ourselves and feel like we had talked about it even though it's just another he knows Human Experience human emotion. So I guess what intrigues me about it. And what makes me keep wanting to excavate it and come back to it is
15:21 How ya how do we memorialize that how do we move on? How do we stay stuck? How do we pass it on from generation to generation like and in a collective way just as much as in a personal way, you know, it's been interesting like working in lower Manhattan lately and you know feeling this sort of like
15:45 Heaviness still walking past the like World Trade Center and feeling like I don't know like something something has changed or in our studio space that's in this like empty office space where you can still see the Shadows of the cubicles. It's like something has happened. Something has been lost. It feels kind of post-apocalyptic and away and
16:10 So you haven't but that total strip down this indicate.
16:16 I'm interested in it because yeah, it's not it's not often something we give voice to.
16:38 I experienced the loss of my grandfather was probably the closest person to me and my family interesting man, and I never actually got to meet him which is too bad that I kind of like one of these types of people in his own way. He was that he's from Newfoundland. I'm Canadian, but he he moved to Toronto and he was like 18 and 19 and eventually he became a Salvation Army Minister ordained in the Salvation Army.
17:21 But he never was really suited to sort of working within a church organ organization. And so what he would do with you.
17:31 Go to the homeless shelters with the pubs and he would just like hang out with people and at the end of the night like put out his hat and get collection from everyone if they stumbled home from the bar. Yeah, he was a kind of man who you know, which fish every day at 5 a.m. And was
17:55 Would have this hold his own little Congregation of of people and
18:02 And would give you the shirt off his back could give you anything so him and I I don't know. It is actually near the end of his life. I started to notice that his the conversations that we are having we're changing and yeah and that
18:19 He he wanted to talk more. I mean you would be on your telling me earlier, but your grandma has she was suddenly talking about things that were in the far past, but he he want to talk about cosmology in philosophy and it was weird because he even like talk to anybody else in the family about it, but it was like getting chosen me to talk about this. That's what you wanted to talk about like black holes and
18:49 20/20 are you able to engage with him?
19:01 Glad about it Lake Newfoundland and about fishing, but he would he would ask me questions like
19:08 What do you think about this? And what do you think about this and I went to Nepal and I was 20 as well by myself and was hiking around and when I came back he was just he wanted to know everything about it and I want to know my observations about it and just wanted to kind of live that life threw me and so yeah actually talking about my grandfather. I was talking earlier about the Opera and how one of the characters underwent anesthesia hardly reason I was very curious about anesthesia at the time is because when my Grandpa died I was having surgery and was under anesthesia, and I never know I'm asking you a Frenchman.
20:00 Anyways, I was tender.
20:04 He we had like this meeting when I was under and when he gave me my violin that I have when I was 12 years old my full-size violin. So in this dream or whatever, he asked me to play violin for him. And so I played violin for him and we said goodbye and then I woke up and the surgery was done and I went home and there is a message on my phone that he had died while I was in surgery so I don't really come I felt like
20:44 I knew what had happened and I was cool with it and happy that I had been able to say goodbye and whatever way.
20:53 Did you talk about it to pan such a good people around you by the six pans? Maybe I did.
21:08 Yeah, and how was the reaction from people from when you tell them like my family was pretty sort of caught up in their own grief at the time. And so I think they were like such a beautiful but then kind of forgot about it and I think other people when I talk to other people about it, it opened up experiences that they had had under anesthesia as well more about that. Yeah. So I guess when you're talking about wedding treats me about grief and loss and all those things is also contained in
21:44 So much I think is contained in the subconscious or the unconscious. So I think this moment when I was under
21:53 Totally have you ever wrote about that besides that the Oprah?
21:58 I did try to read about it. I tried to include it in part of an essay, but I just haven't it hasn't got kicked out even written about.
22:17 I hate this question. When asked you for a while about you work and we can go back to that. It's how did you think? How do you think about your audience? So you redo?
22:30 When you ride when you work when you create do you ever think about the people I was going to receive your work?
22:38 At a certain at a certain stage in the writing I do but not at the beginning at all.
22:49 Yeah in the beginning. It's really just kind of like me.
22:56 Alone in a room and it's very like Solitude practice for me. I mean that I can't write with other people around in my head or around me physically and need to be alone. But I mean at a certain stage in the process like after a draft has been made I think it then I will start to think about more things like structure and timing which I think it's implicit in thinking about the audience. Sometimes I'll read things.
23:29 But loud and it's for me to hear it, but it's also I kind of imagined somebody standing outside my door and overhearing me read it and I kind of wish actually met readings for like that, but they were like over hearings exactly. It's like the writer is still alone with their work safety. I really feel like she active writing as well as active reading are both.
24:04 Really solid to its Altaria ex and so they can be intimate by the sort of over hearing connection, which is like what I think is really cool. But radio is that it's created in sort of solitude but then gets transmitted into all of these homes and places in desks for the person has their own intimate experience, but they somehow connected. Do you work in the radio station there for a little bit
24:35 Men's athletic pants to make you feel that way.
24:42 And you don't think about it in the moment. So I think it wasn't really that experience that made me think about it was more like just thinking about it philosophically actually, I mean reading things written by Beckett's or also by Glenn Gould hits one of my heroes.
25:01 Back to the urgency. What do you want to create a provoke in your audience in your readers?
25:20 I know we never talk about that. That's why I want.
25:35 I mean
25:38 I'm definitely interested in creating something.
25:43 Something beautiful that can touch them but I don't think I'm so hesitant to use the word beautiful because I think it implies certain things that I'm not wanting to imply like when I say that word I'm more thinking about
26:01 I guess like the darker side of beautiful, so.
26:06 You know like a real intimate moment of communication whether it's between me and that person or the audience or that audience and the person that sitting beside them just want like for one moment while they're receiving my work for them to maybe engaged in their own lives and the lives around them in a deeper way just so I guess the deepening that's I I wish for a deepening.
26:34 The communication when you mentioned discussion you had with your grandfather about India about that ever come back to back holes in Newark.
27:00 Little or no, I mean in this was the strange thing about his death is that nobody knew he was a l he being like a any Royal Newfoundland ER isn't really a chest and I think he was also resistant to go to the doctor cuz I think he knew he knew that there was some things going on and I really believe that he made a choice to just live his life to the end. He wanted to live it and not be in the hospital. Like he basically the day that he went to the hospital never came back. He went fishing that morning then like
27:39 Caught some fish and give them to his friend Ming and then went to the hospital, but I remember I had been with I had been living on Vancouver Island at the time and I came to visit and and we had like a family dinner and Ikea, you know, one of those intimate Ikea family dinners and
28:03 My grandfather just was sitting beside me in.
28:09 There is this total clear moment where I knew that he wasn't going to be around much longer.
28:21 So Lindsey, what do you think about the new discovery of the crop circles in this town or whatever it was like he just kept looking at me and saying like
28:32 Do you know that you are an amazing person to know how much I enjoy talking to you and how much you inspire? Like it was like he needed me to know in that moment how important that I was to him like and it was such an urgency to this is like of course, I knew that but it was the urgency in him needing to tell it to me that I just totally knew that something was not right.
28:57 So my parents drove me back to the ferry and I said to them in the car. Like I think that Grandpa is really sick, and I don't know if I'm going to see him again.
29:08 And he went to the hospital like before I saw him again. I did see him again in the hospital, but he was already really sick. Like at that point. I just came in the hospital and he just basically squeeze my hand.
29:26 So he was basically the moment I Ikea in the working in asbestos plants in Toronto and the 50s diner smokes but it's toxic. It's like a fiberglass so we can get into your lungs but they diagnosed him with tuberculosis.
29:57 So I mean when he was younger tuberculosis look like a death sentence, so you never end up having tuberculosis, but I think you sort of like threw in the towel when he got diagnosed as you talk about his past and he was working with you.
30:17 Like his past in working for you. No, no. No. I just found that out. It was also like
30:33 I don't know. He yeah, he didn't like to talk much about trying to except for this one story that he live to tell about how when he first arrived in Toronto. He was staying in the men's hostel and them.
30:45 Someone asked him if he wanted to play baseball and he and then he asked them amateur or professional.
30:54 I love to tell the story as an example of how far he had come, you know from that first arrival. So but the funny thing is I mean I have written about that. Actually at the funny thing is is that when he told the story he still had like a Newfoundland accent so
31:15 Oh God.
31:26 Are you hungry? My love? It's this very Irish. It's like yeah, it's staying like by I've been fishing by all didn't really catch anything, but it would be like
31:40 When did Aaron Rodgers in the hospital and ask me how much are professional just like as a side note about Newfoundland? There isn't how they talk is that I'm in the same a lot of a lot but they also call everyone fellas like so last time I mom and I were there it was really hilarious to be addressed as fellows like my mother and I you fellows hungry and I'll be like I was Alex and yeah, it was really really amazing. I just I felt instantly connected to the to landscape which is very like
32:33 I mean very Stark and the Beautiful see all these abandoned fishing stages which people used to fish there but the Cod Fisheries collapse. So it's you know, that's a lot of like 2K in the industry there, but the landscape is still still sending a stunning. So let's keep that fishing equipment and they're all scattered along the road, but they're like dilapidated and 1/2 falling apart anybody from your family my uncle Wallace walks with a cane in this
33:15 Very not well
33:18 Kind of got us around Musgrave Harbor the town my grandfather's from things. So it's funny to hear the discrepancies between List family stories. So the stories I had heard through with my grandma tells the story is my uncle Wallace till they're all different writing about some things about that. And you know, I offending certain members of the family because my mother had the fabulous idea to read this essay. I wrote about let me some land to my grandmother and my grandmother was very upset by its cuz there were things in it that I have been told the other family members there that she didn't believe her true and I mean, yeah, that's that's memory right? It's so
34:08 Cobble together by so many things. It's like what we want to carry with us for your writing.
34:21 You know, it's I guess a choice they make
34:27 Yeah, it's risky has lots of steak, but
34:32 Are you saying it's important to?
34:44 Oh and another story that is offended my family. Yeah, I wrote an essay that was published about some about my uncle some things. Yeah that our family secrets that I talked about and
35:04 I actually don't know if they were offended cuz I don't know if he's read it and my mom is sure that he has because she says he doesn't ask about me anymore on the phone, but who knows could because he has other things to do. Okay. Well, do you regret not being a doctor?
35:34 Sometimes in months when we don't have as much money as others. Yeah, but I've asked on a glue Booth. You know, you remember when you dreamed of becoming someone becoming hairdresser hairdresser. Oh, I want to tell to be a war correspondent.
36:21 Sites of Destruction is always intrigued me to ask you. How did you relate what you dream of becoming with what you want to talk to people they cut their hair and make them beautiful and talk to people and talk about their stories. And now I just tell their stories your headrest in disguise.
36:57 Yeah, well, that's funny because I think it relates to what you what you are. You always wanted to be a psychologist and never want to do suckers mother is a psycho.
37:14 It was wonder why you not a psychologist.
37:28 Yeah, someone said something to me that I'd actually another Resident whose parents are also both like psychologist. She was like, you know for our parents generation Lee becoming a psychologist is like kind of like becoming an artist but not really having the guts to become an artist.
37:45 Yeah, kind of fastener.
37:48 All the psychologist said there that we may ever listen to this. I feel bad saying that but I do for my mother and I can totally see that.
37:58 Your life is a dream.
38:10 Person was at the moment.
38:13 I feel like in my life all the decisions. I've made have not been any big decision already big moment, but these little tiny steps that I take that they're so small that suddenly on like blue. I have already walked a mile down this path and I'm a writer and so exactly pinning down the moments. That made me become.
38:39 I don't know. Yeah.
38:42 It's it just a tiny little.
38:45 Tiny little leaps of faith, I guess until suddenly you're so far down the road where you can't really picture being on any other one.
38:55 Who told the story is in your family though?
38:57 Until the stories
39:01 Will my grandfather is a big Storyteller. My mother is also very verbal and very Storyteller actually come from a very performative family as he and I can attest to their all musicians like storytellers in their own right? My brother is a massive exaggerator. So he know he tells story that's to the only one who's written them down. But I mean
39:32 As I met people in Newfoundland as well. I saw that the sort of Storytelling Lincoln was nice that was important to sort of see.
39:42 Is a verbal or oral culture never comes from people that give sermons every Sunday?
39:57 So that's to me is totally storytelling and I loved I loved hearing their sermons. They're both very good preachers.
40:11 Let's just keep it at storyteller.
40:20 Well, thanks for me. Thanks.